Canberra: a city of smaller homes, multicultural families, and less religion

Canberra: a city of smaller homes, multicultural families, and less religion

The latest Census figures show the densification of Canberra and find that the city is becoming increasingly godless and more multi-cultural.

The first data from last year's Census say there are 93,397 families in Canberra, with an average 1.8 children.

There is a median of 2.6 people living in each of Canberra's 145,229 households. Together, each household brings in $1920 a week and pays $2167 in monthly mortgage repayments or $380 in weekly rent.


The median rent is the highest in the country, ahead of Darwin's $360 and Sydney's $351. The median mortgage repayments are the equal highest, along with Sydney and Darwin.

Census data reveals the changing face of Canberra.

Census data reveals the changing face of Canberra.Credit:Juliette Dudley

The proportion of stand-alone homes plummeted from 76.3 per cent in 2006 to 72.8 per cent last year, or less than the national average of 75.6 per cent.

Units increased from 10.1 per cent to 12.4 per cent, and semi-detached homes, like townhouses, increased from 13.4 per cent to 14.5 per cent.

And in general the homes are getting smaller – with the exception of an apparent boost to Mcmansions. One-bedroom homes account for 5.2 per cent of households, up from 4.1 per cent and two-bedroom dwellings increased from 12.5 per cent to 13.5 per cent. Three-bedroom homes now account for 43.3 per cent, down from 46.1 per cent five years ago, but big four or more bedroom homes increased their market share, from 35.8 per cent to 36.5 per cent.

However, the ACT still has an average 3.2 bedrooms per dwelling and 2.6 people per household, the same as in 2006.

The data also shows that fewer people own their home, and more are renting – which is now more common that home ownership in the ACT. The majority of people in Canberra still have a mortgage: 38.9 per cent, up slightly from 38.6 per cent in 2006. Renting – up from 29.4 per cent to 30.6 per cent – is now the second most common tenure, ahead of owning a home outright – down from 29.9 per cent to 28.4 per cent.

The median monthly mortgage repayment is $2167, well above the $1800 nationally.

The composition of households has not changed markedly. Families make up 71.1 per cent, down on the 71.4 per cent five years ago, with the drop made up for by slight increases in single person households, 23.4 per cent, and group households, 5.6 per cent.

Canberrans are increasingly likely to be in de facto relationships. The latest Census says 10.7 are in de facto relationships, up from the 9.8 per cent in 2006 and above the 9.5 per cent nationally. The proportion married dropped slightly from 48.9 per cent to 48.4 per cent over the past five years.

There are slightly more families without children (up from 36.2 per cent in 2006 to 37.6 per cent last year) and slightly fewer families with children (down from 47 per cent to 46.2 per cent) and fewer one parent households (down from 15.1 per cent to 14.6 per cent)

The city is also more culturally diverse. In 2006, 30.7 per cent of Canberrans regarded themselves as having an Australian background. This has dropped to 26.6 per cent, just above the national average of 25.4 per cent.

There has also been a drop in the proportion of people living in Canberra who were born in Australia, from 73 per cent in 2006 to 71.4 per cent last year, and there was an increase, from 17.2 per cent to 21 per cent, in the proportion of households where two or more languages are spoken.

Canberrans are now most likely to regard themselves as atheists; 28.9 per cent said they had no religion in the Census. This is up more than 5 percentage points from the 23.4 per cent five years ago, and takes over from Catholicism as the main “religious affiliation in Canberra”. Catholicism – which remains the man affiliation for Australians at 25.3 per cent, compared with 22.3 per cent for atheism - dropped from 28 per cent to 26.1 per cent in Canberra. The proportion of Anglicans in the ACT also dropped, from 16.7 per cent to 14.7 per cent, people affiliated with the Uniting Church fell from 4 per cent to 3.3 per cent, but the proportion of Buddhists more than doubled, from 1.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

The data confirms Canberrans earn a lot more than other Australians. Personal weekly median incomes increased from $722 in 2006 to $917, well up on the $577 Australian median. Family income is up from $1773 to $2277, compared with $1481 nationally, and household income is up from $1493 to $1920, compared with $1234 nationally.


Fewer Canberrans are doing unpaid work: 77.9 per cent compared with 78.4 per cent five years ago, although more – 10.6 per cent compared with 9.9 per cent – provide unpaid care to a person with a disability. Canberrans also did less voluntary work through organisations; the proportion dropped from 22.3 per cent to 21.2 per cent.

Households are also more likely to have a car. The number of carless households dropped from 6.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent. Most had two vehicles (38.8 per cent, up from 37.8 per cent), while 16.3 per cent had three or more vehicles (up from 15 per cent) and 36.7 per cent had one vehicle. On average, there are 1.7 cars at each one.

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